Recently I read a newspaper article that said a “healing forest” was opening this month in the Cypress Forest Woodlands in Jangheung (South Korea), so I went with some of my students to check it out. Would you like to share my adventures?
The entrance to “Cypress Forest Woodlands” in Jangheung.
A flower photography exhibition was underway on the forest trail. This photograph of a poppy caught my eye. I was enchanted by its beautiful colors and graceful form. It lives up to its reputation as a “flower among flowers.”
True to the forest’s name, I saw small cypress trees scattered along the trail that had germinated naturally there. The cypress leaves were soft and fragrant. If you crush them gently and use them in a bath, the scent is delightful and your skin becomes soft and smooth. Although their scent is so good for people, it’s said to be the most horrible-smelling repellant to pine-eating caterpillars and mosquitoes.
We stopped at a restaurant for lunch as we traveled from Jangheung to Songgwangsa Temple. I was engrossed with my smartphone as we waited for the food to come out.
Songgwangsa is one of the most famous Korean Buddhist temples. One of the things it’s famous for is its special relationship with the Venerable Buddhist Monk Beopjeong. Here and there in the temple we found short, impactful statements of truth hung up, seemingly to guide the study of practitioners.
Look at these light green, young bamboo trees. Aren’t they endearing with their soft and delicate heads poking up over the wall of the temple?
Then we went up the path by the Songgwangsa Temple. We were sweating so much in the muggy weather, when suddenly the lush shade of the bamboo forest stretched out in front of us! I was as excited as if I had discovered a new world.
I thought, “This is what I came all this way to see!”
The bamboo grow straight, reaching up toward the sky. The milestones of their lives are inscribed at each joint, where the trees must have overcome life and death struggles before continuing to grow. As I gazed at these noble trees, I had a wordless conversation with them.
We had cool, refreshing tea at a traditional tea house nearby. We had mulberry tea, schizandra tea, and pine leaf tea, as well as delicious patbingsu (shaved ice with sweet red beans) for dessert. The patbingsu tasted especially delectable that day. It looked ordinary enough, but maybe it was particularly potent because I ate it at the base of a mountain with a temple. I happily finished off a bowl in no time, and was even inspired to tweet a poem on the spot.
Our short trip was a time of healing and purification in nature. We walked through healthy forests, during which we absorbed phytoncides (antimicrobial substances emitted from trees) and negative ions from the air in large quantities. I hope you enjoyed sharing our journey too.